Two hundred and three (203) metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs) rushed to the Audit Service between May to November 2022 to declare their assets and liabilities in unprecedented compliance with the Asset Declaration Law, Act 550.
While 65 of the MMDCEs, who filed their declaration, have been in office since 2017, 19 others who took office after the creation of new regions in 2018 have now complied with the law. 114 others appointed in October 2021 also declared their assets in the said period.
The MMDCEs were among 294 political appointees, including ministers and former ministers, members of Parliament, presidential staffers, judges and heads of state institutions who declared their assets and liabilities after The Fourth Estate’s exposé on public officials’ non-compliance with the Asset Declaration law.
Before The Fourth Estate’s story, only six MMDCEs appointed in October 2021 had declared their assets and liabilities.
Also, 20 ministers and former ministers; 48 members of Parliament; 15 presidential staffers, 6 heads of state institutions and 8 judges declared their assets after The Fourth Estate publication. Asset declaration by certain categories of public sector workers is a requirement of the 1992 Constitution.
Article 286 (1) of the 1992 Constitution states that “a person who holds a public office mentioned in clause (5) of this Article shall submit to the Auditor-General a written declaration of all property or assets owned by, or liabilities owed by, him whether directly or indirectly (a) within three months after the coming into force of this Constitution or before taking office, as the case may be, (b) at the end of every four years; and (b) at the end of his term of office.”
The law requires that the president, vice-president, the speaker, deputy speakers, and members of Parliament, ministers and deputy ministers of state, ambassadors, the chief justice, judges of superior and lower courts and managers of public institutions in which the state has interests submit to the Auditor-General written declarations of all property or assets owned by, or liabilities owed by them, whether directly or indirectly.
The Constitution requires the declaration to be done before the public officer takes office. However, Section 1(4)(c) of the Public Office Holders (Declaration of Assets and Disqualification) Act directs public office holders to meet this requirement “not later than six months after taking office, at the end of every four years and not later than six months at the end of his or her term.”
The frantic declarations took place between May and November 2022 after The Fourth Estate started a series in May 2022 on public officeholders’ compliance with the law. The publications were based on the list of public officials who had declared their assets, which we requested and obtained from the Audit Service of through a right to information request in March 2022.
The data revealed widespread non-compliance among public officeholders in the executive, judiciary and legislature. It, however, showed high levels of compliance among civil and public servants in the Ghana Revenue Authority, the Audit Service, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, and the Petroleum Commission.
To track compliance after the series, The Fourth Estate made another right to information request in November 2022. This time, the data showed that hundreds of public officeholders had scurried to declare their assets. The asset declaration traffic to the Audit Service peaked on Friday, October 7 and Monday, October 10, 2022, when 159 declarations were filed. On October 7, 2022, alone, 113 declarations were submitted.
Going by the dictates of the law, all the MMDCEs who were appointed in 2017 should have declared their assets by December 2017, given that they were endorsed between May-July 2017. Those appointed in October 2021 should have met their obligation by April 2022. But the majority of them disregarded the law. This was in spite of a presidential directive.
On July 5, 2017, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo directed 119 MMDCEs present at an orientation ceremony to declare their assets and liabilities by July 24, 2017.
“That exercise will be monitored,” the president warned. However, only four MMDCEs complied with the directive.
They are Martin D. Bomba-Ire, Lawra; Marian Iddrisu, Sagnarigu; Samuel Kwame Agyekum, Asuogyaman; and Emmanuel Kofi Agyemang, Dormaa East.
By the end of President Akufo-Addo’s first term on January 6, 2021, not a single MMDCE had fully complied with the law. They were expected to file their declaration within six months of assuming office and within six months after their tenure had expired. They did partial declarations.
But between March 2019 and December 2020, 53 of them filed their declarations. This was at a time they were leaving office.
Compliance with the asset declaration law by MMDCEs was not different in President John Mahama’s era.
Only four MMDCEs declared their assets from 2013-2017—one MMDCE did when she assumed office while three others did when they exited.
During the president’s first term (2017-2021), only 18 out of his 126 ministers declared their assets fully. 18 others never declared their assets. For the second term, 8 out of 87 ministers did not declare their assets, while 89 appointees, including the vice-president, did partial declarations.
However, after The Fourth Estate’s work, 19 ministers and deputy ministers, who either never filed their asset declarations or did partial declarations, have lived up to their responsibility. Eleven others are still indebted to the asset declaration regime.
Although the Secretary to the President, Nana Asante Bediatuo, has been signing President Akufo-Addo’s appointment and dismissal letters since 2017, the legal practitioner failed to file his asset declaration when he was supposed to do so. He and 14 others, including the vice-president’s economic advisor, Dr Gideon Boako; secretary to the vice-president, Augustine Blay; the presidential advisor on media and communications, Florence Oboshie Sai Cofie, and national security advisor, Brigadier General Emmanuel Okyere (Retd), have also now done the declaration. They did it after The Fourth Estate publications.
Lord Commey who is the director of operations at the Office of the President, is yet to declare his asset since 2017.
In the current Parliament, 95 legislators have complied with the law. 180 0thers have not. 85 of them are first-time MPs. The compliance scorecard of the legislators was 35%.
The list of non-complying MPs included at least 10 leaders of the House. However, after The Fourth Estate’s revelations, the deputy Minority Leader, Alex Afenyo-Markin, and former Deputy Minority Leader, Dr. James Klutse Avedzi, declared their assets. So did the Adansi Asokwa MP, K.T. Hammond, who hurled insults at The Fourth Estate journalist after he was asked about his asset declaration status.
Lawmakers in the seventh and eighth parliament were not different. Only 20 MPs who served in the House from 2017-2021 fully declared their assets. They had a 7.2% compliance rate. While 129 did not declare their assets and liabilities at all, 126 did partial declaration either when they entered parliament or when they exited.
Heads of state institutions
The National Identification Authority Chief Executive, Prof Ken Attafuah; the Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, John Allotey; the CEO of the Minerals Income and Investment Fund, Edward Nana Yaw Koranteng; the Chief Executive of the Public Procurement Authority, Frank Mante; the Administrator of the Scholarship Secretariat and the Administrator of the National COVID-19 Trust Fund all breached the law as they exceeded the grace period for declaration. They declared only after The Fourth Estate reports.
The data showed that, under former President Mahama’s administration, out of the 102 ministers who served at one point or the other, only 34 fully complied with the law.11 ministers never declared their assets. 56 others failed to fully comply.
However, only one Mahama-era minister, Nii Osah Mills, who was the former Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, did his declaration after The Fourth Estate’s listed him among the defaulters. It came nine years after his appointment in 2013 and six years after he left office.
What they are to declare
Section 4 of Act 550 requires public office holders to declare their assets and reliabilities related to:
(a)lands, houses and buildings;
(d) trust or family property in respect of which the officer has beneficial interest;
(e) vehicles, plant and machinery, fishing boats, trawlers, generating plants;
(f) business interests;
(g) securities and bank balances;
(h) bonds and treasury bills;
(i) jewellery of the value of ¢5 million [now ¢500] or above; objects of art of the value of ¢5 million or above;
(j) life and other insurance policies;
(k) such other properties as are specified on the declaration form